Donald Trump has continuously blamed Barack Obama and his administration for initiating the policy of separating migrant children from their families while being detained at the southern border. However, fact checkers have consistently proven his claim to be false.
In his latest string of interviews, Trump told reporters that he “inherited” the policy from Obama’s presidency and that he has actually brought families back together.
During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump said he “inherited separation from President Obama” and that “I was the one that ended it.” In a later interview with Telemundo’s José Díaz Balart, Trump said, “When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together.” THEN, he told Time magazine, “I inherited separation,” and “I’m the one that put the families back together.”
However, according to FactCheck.org, “previous administrations did not have a blanket policy to prosecute parents and separate them from their children.” It wasn’t until after the Trump administration announced its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in April 2018, that thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents. Under the “zero tolerance” policy, anyone who illegally enters the U.S. is referred for criminal prosecution.
Data from the Department Of Homeland Security shows migrant apprehensions and deportations during Obama’s presidency outpaced those of Trump’s first years, but PolitiFact found that family separations were still rare during the Obama and Bush administrations and became “systematic” under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.
Also according to PolitiFact, the Obama Administration sought to keep families together in detention, but a court ruling stated children could not be held more than 20 days, so officials began to release entire families. The only exceptions were in cases where custody could not be established, or the parent was being prosecuted for another crime, such as drug smuggling.
USA Today reports that a February 2019 court filing declares more than 2,700 of 2,816 separated children had been released, but a January 2019 report from the Department Health and Human Services’ inspector general found that thousands more may have been separated than the 2,800 who have been reported and identified.
In an April 2019 news conference, Trump stated, “Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children. I’m the one that stopped it.” Trump then defended the policy, arguing that without it, “you see many more people coming.”
“They’re coming like it’s a picnic” and telling themselves, “‘Let’s go to Disneyland,'” he said.